Essential Substances: A Cultural History of Intoxicants in Society

Rudgley, Richard

Published by Kodansha Amer Inc, 1994
ISBN 10: 1568360169 / ISBN 13: 9781568360164
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Synopsis: From opium in Stone Age caves to crack on our own streets, intoxicants have always played a deeply significant role in society. In this entertaining and provocative look at the uses and abuses of mind-altering drugs through history, Richard Rudgley shows how our attitudes toward these substances have been shaped by cultural values, and how our own use of intoxicants like alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco is an integral part of the age-old worldwide quest for altered states. Essential Substances is a magical tour of the fantastic and often bizarre world of intoxicants peopled by tribesmen and mystics, statesmen and writers, housewives and yuppies. From the traditional mind-altering substances - like magic mushrooms in Siberia, tobacco and peyote in the Americas, qat in Africa, and betel in Southeast Asia - to the psychoactive plants of medieval witchcraft, hallucinogens like LSD and marijuana, and stimulants like coffee, tea, and cocoa, Rudgley cogently shows how the significance of these substances extends beyond simple pleasure to the economic, political, and sexual life of the community. In the process, he challenges our assumptions that deem certain intoxicants socially and legally acceptable, while others remain taboo. Essential Substances is a timely, much-needed reconsideration of the roles intoxicants play in our lives and society. With the "war on drugs" now widely seen to be a failure, this insightful, cross-cultural look at the word of intoxicants will provide a new basis for creative thinking on a perennial problem.

From Booklist: Anthropologist Rudgley takes us on a swift but information-packed tour of humanity's use of intoxicants in the Western world from Paleolithic times to the present. He recounts key archaeological finds that confirmed the ancient use of opium and cannabis, then links these practices to art forms such as cave paintings and certain common geometric patterns. As he roams across Europe, Russia, India, and the Americas, Rudgley chronicles the use of fly agaric mushrooms by Siberian shamans, ponders the botanical identity of soma as described in the Rig Veda, and explains the cults of the yaje among the Tukano Indians in Amazonia and peyote among tribes in the Southwest. One of the most surprising sections in this revelatory book is the discussion of European witches. Their flying was the product of ointment-based intoxicants, and broomsticks had a, let's say, medicinal rather than vehicular function. Rudgley concludes with a somber look at heroin and cocaine abuse. Donna Seaman

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Title: Essential Substances: A Cultural History of ...
Publisher: Kodansha Amer Inc
Publication Date: 1994
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Near Fine

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Rudgley, Richard
Published by Kodansha Amer Inc (1994)
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Book Description Kodansha Amer Inc, Cary, North Carolina, U.S.A., 1994. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very Good Plus. Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good Plus. posted november 2005. clean, tight copy. Bookseller Inventory # 002196

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